Gaming headphones are a great way to get the most out of your video game experience without breaking the bank.
They don’t cost as much as surround sound systems, they’re easy to set up, and you can use them without disturbing your roommate or the whole house.
But not all gaming headphones are made equal, so they come at different prices.
Often, the more expensive ones have better features, but there are a few treasures in the below-100 dollar mark.
How Much Are Good Gaming Headphones?
Gaming headphones can be had for as low as $40 and can go as much as $300. Even at the lower price point, you can get decent performance, but there might be some features or qualities lacking.
What Should You Look for in a Pair of Gaming Headphones?
There are plenty of options for a good pair of gaming headphones, and you may not have the time to try all of them.
It would be good to narrow your choices by focusing on certain qualities.
The first thing you need to look at is comfort. You can have the best sound quality, but that will be a deal-breaker if the headphones aren’t pleasing to wear.
Remember that you’re likely to be playing for hours, and if the headphones are not comfortable enough, you might not be able to concentrate on your game.
When it comes to comfort, you should look at how the headphones dissipate heat, make your head and ears sweat, and how they weigh.
If the headphones you choose have an issue with the criteria listed, you may not get the best experience. Even worse here is that the discomfort can distract you from your game.
Another factor to consider is sound isolation.
If your headphones fail to provide sufficient sound isolation, you may experience inaccurate audio in your headphones.
If you’re communicating with fellow players, you may not hear them.
Even when playing alone, having proper sound isolation will allow you to listen to the game accurately.
The main factor contributing to sound isolation is how the earpads (or silicon buds, for earbuds) can seal your ears. You may not achieve complete sound isolation at first since your headphones still need to adjust to your ears.
If the earpads or silicon buds don’t seal your ears well, you need a larger size.
Try using velour pads for your headphones, or get headphones with eyewear channels for those wearing glasses. These allow for better response, which gets reduced when you have the frame of your glasses in the way. If you can find a pair with active noise canceling, that will help improve sound isolation.
The built quality
The next thing to look at is the build quality of the headphones.
Many gaming headphones in the market are often made with mainly metal components. While plastic makes headphones lighter, some parts work better when made of metal.
A good example would be the headband, which is often stretched when put on the head.
Suppose you can’t find a pair of gaming headphones that use metal or for its headband, try looking for plastic headbands that provide a good range of movement. Remember that you’re stretching the headphones over your head, so something with good stretchability for better durability.
If you’re playing solo, you can skip the microphone. But if you play games multiplayer and use voice chat or stream while playing, don’t skip this part.
Choosing a microphone for your gaming headphones will have limitations, so manage your expectations here. For one, most of these headphones will have minor bass frequencies. If your voice is deep, you can expect yourself to sound thinner.
Likewise, these microphones don’t have enough power, unlike those running through a mixer or a USB interface. You can remedy the lack of power through the settings for those using Discord.
But if you’re particular about the microphone quality, you may want to invest in a decent microphone and USB interface setup, which will serve as your soundcard.
A good pair of gaming headphones will also have a detachable microphone. If you’re on the go, detaching the microphone allows you to protect it from damage when traveling.
But, if you’re not traveling with it, a non-detachable microphone will be fine.
Another good feature to look at is surround sound. While you can play games on regular headphones, having surround sound takes the game up a notch by making things more realistic. Headphones that feature surround sound have tiny speakers distributed on each side to help simulate sound coming from different directions.
Surround sound headphones give you a better advantage if you’re trying to look for your target that’s hidden. If you play games like Fortnite, surround sound headphones are a must, given their gameplay.
There are different surround sound systems, such as:
- Dolby Atmos,
- DTS:X, and
- Windows Sonic, among others.
When choosing a gaming headphone that has to surround sound, consider what your gaming device uses.
Often, these surround systems are supported on both 3.5mm connections and USB.
Lastly, get a pair of gaming headphones with an option for wired connections. While plenty of wireless gaming headphones in the market work just as fine, it also helps if the pair you get has a wired option.
Wired headphones have less latency and will last longer without needing to charge. A wired option is also helpful if you use active noise canceling since you get more mileage from the headphone’s batteries.
With that in mind, let’s look at what headphones you can get within the given price range above.
Beyerdynamic Custom Game ($149)
Beyerdynamic is known for studio-grade equipment, particularly headphones and microphones, for those unfamiliar with the brand. But with the Custom Game, the company entered the gaming industry.
Out of the box, the Beyerdynamic Custom Game looks bulky. Unless you’re used to wearing large headphones or earmuffs, you’d probably keep this pair for home or indoor use.
While bulky in design, the large earcups provide sufficient sound isolation, with the option for six earcup covers.
The Custom Game also uses metal components while remaining easy to stretch over wide heads. The headband is also adjustable to adapt to different head sizes and shapes.
Very comfortable earcups
The Custom Game uses faux leather earcups, making it cool to the ears. Unlike other headphones, you can have these on for hours without discomfort.
The cable of the Custom Game is detachable. The cord that comes with the headphones is a microphone and a volume and mute switch for the headphones.
If you don’t want to use the microphone, you can swap the stock cable and use an ordinary 3.5mm audio cable.
For the audio performance, the Custom Game makes up for this department.
First of all, these headphones feature a wide frequency response that goes from 5 – 35,000 Hz. Subtle noises in the game are heard clearly while maintaining a rich bass frequency. Orchestra game soundtracks sound pretty full.
If Beyerdynamic could improve anything, the lack of 7.1 surround sound, which works best for shooter games, and better speech handling.
There are other features worth noting with the Custom Game. An audio profile switch gives you different sound profiles, including a heightened passive noise canceling.
Razer Baraccuda X ($79)
Razer needs no introduction to gamers, being one of the most prominent brands in the gaming market. Now, they have a wide range of gaming accessories, so here’s one of their top gaming headphones, the Razer Barracuda X.
The Razer Barracuda X features a clean design and has flat earcups. The surfaces are coated matte black and made with plastic, sans the earcups made of fabric and faux leather.
While the earcups are not as padded as other headphones on the market, it still feels comfortable to wear, thanks to the light frame of the Barracuda X.
You can find the headphones’ controls on the sides of the left earcup, which include the power button, volume control, USB-C port for charging, two 3.5mm jacks for a wired connection, and a detachable microphone, respectively.
The microphone has a windscreen and uses a flexible rubber arm.
The Razer Barracuda X pairs to your computer through a USB-C dongle. The plug is relatively flat and makes it incognito when connected to your phone or computer. You can pair these headphones with your computer, Android smartphone, Nintendo Switch, or Sony PlayStation.
Not compatible with Xbox and iOS
Unfortunately, these headphones are not compatible if you’re using an Xbox or iOS device.
There are also converters included if you don’t have a USB-C port. Likewise, you may also use the wired connection to connect to an Xbox. At least, there’s still a workaround for consoles that don’t recognize the USB-C receiver.
Now, let’s take a look at the audio quality.
Unlike many new headphones in the market, the Barracuda X doesn’t use a specific app for tweaking. But these headphones are compatible with Dolby Atmos, THX Spatial Audio, and Pulse 3D.
It’s worth noting that you need to spend an additional $20 to unlock the processing of THX and Dolby Atmos.
The Barracuda X is also suitable for listening to music and can handle bass frequencies well. That means you can have that life-like sound experience, such as explosions, with the enhanced bass.
Other frequencies get good resonance and sound more open. For the price you pay, these headphones are a good deal for sound.
Like many other gaming headphones, the Barracuda X comes with a built-in microphone that performs quite well, considering the price. It picks up your voice clearly and can be pretty sensitive. Some users noted that the microphone managed to pick up hums from computer fans, a testament to its sensitivity.
But even with its clarity, it’s not recommended for content creation. But the microphone is good enough for Zoom chats.
Audeze Penrose Gaming Headphones ($299)
Audeze is known for its premium gaming headphones, with some of its headphones reaching a whopping $900.
But it also has cheaper models, such as the Penrose, which costs $300.
Out of the box, the Penrose gaming headphones sport oval flat back earcups and a plastic headband, with a touch of faux leather on the earpads and headband. There’s notably a ring that denotes the model.
While both are compatible with PCs, a blue ring signifies compatibility for the Playstation, while a green ring is for the Xbox.
Aside from pairing via a USB dongle, these headphones connect via Bluetooth and a 3.5mm cable. You get a wide range of compatibility for any device you may have.
Overall, these headphones provide a comfortable fit. You’d love to have these on for hours, and you won’t get distracted when playing for long.
Now, let’s get to the sound quality.
The sound quality
The Penrose is an leaner version of the Audeze Mobius. It lacks certain sound features, but that should not be a deal-breaker. It makes up for the sound quality instead.
Now, unlike other headphones in this price range, the Penrose does not have motion sensing, which won’t give you access to spatial effects.
You can, however, use audio processing from different apps, like Windows Sonic or Dolby Atmos.
The Penrose uses planar magnetic drivers, which are known to deliver high-quality sounds and accentuate highs and lows that are not overpowering.
These drivers are more costly to produce, hence the price tag. But for those looking for rich sound quality.
Speaking of sound quality, the Penrose is also suitable for listening to your favorite tunes. Bass frequencies also don’t distort, thanks to the Planar drivers. Those who love listening to folk music will love how rich an acoustic guitar can sound with these headphones.
For the sound quality, the Penrose is quite balanced.
What about talk and dialogue clearness?
When it comes to gaming, dialogues are clear on these headphones. You can hear details of little things, such as movement, and listen to them as if you were in the actual game. The rich low frequencies make explosions realistic without any distortions.
Lastly, let’s take a look at the microphone.
The microphone included with the Penrose has adjustable gain control on the headphones.
You need to tweak the settings before you get a good sound.
If you want something that sounds well out of the box, you might want to get a dedicated USB microphone instead, especially if you plan to use it for streaming.
Do You Need Gaming Headphones to Play Video Games?
The quick answer here is no, as what’s important is you get to hear your game.
But, if you want to maximize your game’s soundscape or wish to take gaming seriously, then gaming headphones are recommended.
Gaming headphones are designed for video game users who want to emphasize specific sound frequencies while providing a realistic gaming experience. Often, gaming headphones now offer support for modern sound technologies, such as Dolby Atmos, which make the gaming experience more realistic.